Posted by: mhdiaz | February 11, 2011

Top New Technologies in Higher Education – 2011 Horizon Report

I always look forward to seeing each year’s Horizon Report.    Just released by the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE, this report offers interesting perspectives on the current and future impacts of emerging technologies in higher education. 

I like the focus each year on just six new technologies that are already appearing in the academic environment, which keeps it from being too overwhelmed by the latest hype cycle in technology news.  What is particularly helpful is that the report includes examples of technologies in use at named academic institutions in various academic subjects and a wide range of helpful sources to consult for additional information. 

Here is what struck me from the latest findings:

One-Year Time-to-Adoption Horizon

  • Electronic Books – Of course, ebooks are growing in importance due to widespread consumer adoption of the Kindle, Nook, and iPad, and other ereaders and tablets and demand for ebooks is also making news in the library space.  What I found particularly interesting was the report’s emphasis on integration into ebooks of video and enhanced interaction capabilities.  It will be interesting to see if more intricate offerings can see widespread adoption in such a tight timeframe.  As alluded to in the report, speed of developments with digital textbook adoption will be key to this evolution and developments in standards and rights management will likely have some influence on future directions.
  • Mobiles – Ubiquity of mobile devices has created an expectation of “anytime, anywhere” research and learning.  The explosion of applications for these devices and the decoupling of internet access from wired connections will continue to drive this trend. 

Two- to Three-Year Time-to-Adoption Horizon

  • Augmented Reality – This ties closely to location-based mobile applications where relevant data and insight can offer context about a site or a location.  As the report indicates, this technology could offer an active way for students to connect what they are seeing and doing in the world with their educational experience.
  • Game-Based Learning – Building upon the immense popularity of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, I agree that there is excellent potential to create games and gaming environments that can enhance the educational experience.   Who will be meeting this need and how this will evolve is hard to predict.

Three- to Five-Year Time-to-Adoption Horizon

  • Gesture-Based Computing – I think about election pundits on CNN having that big-board in the classroom to slice and dice data on the fly.   Of course, tablet computing and home gaming developments (Wii, Kinect) have already been driving this kind of capability.  I would not be surprised to see this technology advance more quickly than predicted in the report. 
  • Learning Analytics – Web analytics capabilities are certainly expanding, and more importantly, software tools are becoming easier to use.  As the report points out, key gating factors in implementing better analytics to enhance learning will be privacy considerations and the fact that lots of valuable data continues to be trapped in silos. 

Do you think that this this report hits the mark on offering a snapshot of current and near term developments with technology in education?   It would be great to get your thoughts on the trends as you see them.


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